A cooperative team of up to five players are pitted against endless waves of dinosaurs; this is ORION: Dino Beatdown. Certainly, that sounds like a fantastic concept with huge potential; which is initially what I thought, but one must not make the mistake of judging a book by its cover.
ORION was developed by Spiral Game Studios and is powered by the almighty Unreal Engine 3; suffice to say a lot of hype was built up for this game.
ORION: Dino Beatdown has absolutely no story whatsoever, nor any instructions or explanations on anything; so, it’s up to the player to accept that they’re on an alien planet and mess around to get used to everything.
Powered by the almighty Unreal Engine 3, you'd expect some pretty kick-ass visuals from this game. Man, those expectations were crushed to the brink of extinction and absolutely fossilised down to the centre of the Earth. Despite the exaggeration, the graphics aren't terrible -- sometimes the landscapes look stunning -- but the Unreal Engine 3 has so much more to offer, instead, we get:
- Poorly executed draw-distances (it's like foliage decides to grow when you're six metres near it)
- Awfully over-stretched textures
- Boringly slow render times
- Painfully choppy animations
Deus Ex: Human Revolution, anyone?
At times, the textures appear to resemble the quality of Microsoft Paint (not really, but close to it). For some reason, the game features average "night-vision" that discreetly flicks on and off, as well as some sort of terrible infrared vision that does virtually nothing at all for anyone in any kind of time period.
Yep, that looks off the hook, chuck it in.
The only visual aspect that was appealing to me was a small part of the lighting system: the extremely overused light rays. Somehow, the moon that is featured in one of three worlds produces as much light rays as the sun would. Overall, the graphics aren't something you'd brag about and show off to some mates.
The main gist of ORION: Dino Beatdown: You spawn at a random (depending on the server) base and you have to activate the generator (activating another base's generator doesn't seem to work at all); this isn't any ordinary generator, this generator somehow specifically attracts the attention of every single dinosaur in the world, pinning them on a mission to destroy it, making everything better. It's up to the players to stop this outrage and defend the activated generator from being "blown up" by dinosaurs.
In my opinion, there is little to no fun in soloing this game, play it with friends. You can jump into the action this game has to offer with, as mentioned before, up to four other players. ORION: Dino Beatdown features three disappointingly similar "worlds" and they are all huge; which is why I recommend playing with friends otherwise it's like building a five story house for a single bloke. The player has the choice to choose from three classes with a unique ability each: Assault features a jetpack (jetpacks are awesome), Support features a medical gun (reminiscent of Team Fortress 2), and Recon -- the only female class -- features a cloak (similar to Crysis').
Assault is your average "action" class, blowing stuff up and hitting the dinosaurs hard. Recon takes on a more subtle approach, giving you the ability to remain hidden from your enemies, which is pointless since the AI are absolutely oblivious to anything visible -- funnily enough, there's actually an option to turn off dinosaur AI. Finally, the only way the Support class assists the team is by replenishing everyone's health via the medical gun. Personally, I think the Assault class dominates the rest, since you can fly around with the jetpack, but it's almost essential to go as Assault since the game is very poorly optimised and you can get stuck very easily in the terrain. There are some very imprudent flaws to this game:
- Clipping issues everywhere, you can just casually walk through some walls and structures.
- Escaping the rocky mountain terrain that surrounds and limits all three worlds. Physically, it doesn't work at all, you can simply utilise the jetpack or any flying vehicle and scale the mountains, finding yourself outside of the world in an endless void in no time. And yes, it is worse than Skyrim's horses, it's just not funny.
- Deceiving geometry, you can get stuck very easily; if you don't have a jetpack to save yourself, the only options are to either sit there or die.
- Lacking decent AI. Currently, only three types of dinosaurs are available to oppose. AI is very poor, although it makes sense, because they're, well, dinosaurs. I stood completely still whilst a raptor thought it'd make sense if it attacked the air surrounding me, very efficient.
It ultimately gets to the point where the flaws in this game become entertainment. There are a couple of things I enjoyed about the gameplay, besides the jetpacks. Firstly, the mini-map, it highlights every dinosaur in the proximity and is extremely helpful when the AI decide to become confused or stuck. ORION: Dino Beatdown includes a simple credit system that works by awarding you a certain amount of credits for each dinosaur you kill. You can then spend these credits on a handful of weapons, vehicles, and abilities. Some vehicles have intense control (worthy contenders for Mass Effect's M35 Mako). The almost game-breaking aspect is that when you die, the game expects you to scrounge up a "mere" five thousand credits out of nowhere to respawn; can't afford that? That's ok, just wait until the next round begins.
The sound, or what there is of it, is certainly disappointing; the game may as well be black and white, muted and labelled a silent film. I'm not kidding, there are very little atmospheric sounds, no sign of wind or just anything at all; it's basically just smothered in an unsuitable soundtrack, but when it stops playing, there's silence. Even the dinosaurs fail to make convincing sounds; all they do is screech like lunatics. What still makes me shake my head and chuckle even now is the voice acting, "thread eliminated," [sic] - Player. It really makes you wonder whether or not they're taking the game seriously at all. The announcer/commentator is one to laugh at, it is very clear that they've ripped the whole "double kill" and "triple kill" off of the Unreal Tournament series and given it a pretty hopeless touch, "kill-o-saur." This game has even gone as far as ripping death sounds off of Valve’s Counter-Strike series (they probably fired their player voice actors).
As you've probably noticed, this has been one hell of a negative review. To back up and emphasise on how flawed this game really is, I've put together a nice little video for you to watch:
In conclusion, ORION: Dino Beatdown had a lot going for it and held extreme potential. To be honest, this feels like some sort of bug riddled third party modification for Unreal Tournament 2004, since it just doesn't utilise the power of the Unreal Engine. It contains poorly executed animations, sound, optimisation and ideas as if everything was made by a T-Rex. If I were writing this back in pre-historic time, this game would be a break-through. Not bad for a T-Rex.
Now, apparently, there will be a constant flow of free DLC coming out for this game. It's going to take a hell of a lot of free content to recover such a fossil like this. Currently, it’s $9.99 on Steam.